Crime & Justice

Morocco introduces videolink trials amid coronavirus pandemic

By Fatima Zohra Bouaziz

Salé, Morocco, May 6 (efe-epa).- Morocco has launched its first videolink trials after years of discussion in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s Ministry of Justice, Supreme Council of the Judiciary and Public Prosecutor’s Office participated in its implementation during the Covid-19 state of emergency, declared from 20 March to 20 May, with the aim of maintaining it in the future.

The measure was rolled out to prevent a possible collapse of the courts due to trial backlogs and coronavirus outbreaks in several jails across Morocco.

In the Ouarzazate prison in southern Morocco, 303 people tested positive for the respiratory illness, 241 of whom were inmates and 62 were staff members, making it one of the most serious outbreaks in the country.

The infections forced the prison administration to provisionally suspend the transfer of detainees to courts throughout the country.

The Court of First Instance in the northern Moroccan city of Salé was the first to launch videolink hearings last week, and they have since been adopted in jurisdictions across the country.

With cameras and televisions placed at various angles in the room, a remote session takes place in the presence of a presiding judge, a prosecutor, a court clerk and lawyers, all of them wearing face masks, and without the accused’s physical presence.

“Lower the mask so that I can see your face,” the judge asks the accused who appears on a computer screen while checking the defendant’s identity with a file and photograph in front of him.

The session proceeds normally between the interrogations of Judge Abdeslam Hmamou, who then gives way to the intervention of deputy prosecutor Samia Hamdaoui, and then listens to the defence lawyers.

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